Archives for posts with tag: trust

Pride
Being thankful could be difficult— sometimes VERY. The mind is hard to silence and the heart is equally difficult to humble. Being thankful requires us to be intentional. It requires faith.

Ecclesiastes 11:5-6 says, “5 Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. 6 Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both,” (NLT).

We have to trust that even during what we perceive as difficult seasons, God is still on the throne. We have to believe that even when the desires of our hearts seem to be light years away, God has a plan for victory. No one said that walking by faith and not by sight would be easy, but we have to remember who God is. He is the same today, tomorrow and forever (Hebrews 13:8). If He did it before, He will do it again! If He did it for one, He will do it for all! He will do it for you.

King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived cautioned:

9 Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. 10 So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless, (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, NLT)

King Solomon was right. Everything in life is meaningless. Can any of us remember the worries that we had 10 years ago? Sure, we might be able to remember that we had some cause for concern, but those visceral emotions have fade. Even the memories of joyous events have faded. It is impossible to relive a moment. It is for that reason that we have to be thankful. We cannot relive today. Today is a new day. It’s not tomorrow or yesterday.  When you and I are not thankful for today, we spend our day wishing it were tomorrow, and in some cases, yesterday. Doing so never allows us to live in the present. The problem is, time doesn’t stand still when we fail to engage the present. In fact, it quickly sifts away. Before we know it, days have turned to months and months have morphed into years, even decades. We have to give thanks for where we are today, for tomorrow is not promised. Not only is tomorrow not promised. It does not exist. Tomorrow is a mirage. The moment we experience tomorrow, it has already become today. So, why are we living for tomorrow? We should enjoy today! We should give thanks for today!
Dear God, we thank you for today. We thank you for every moment—happy or sad. Lord, we know enough to know that we know nothing at all. We thank you that you have the universe and our lives under control. We thank you for the rainbow that hails after the storm because we know that is your promise of things to come. God, we simply thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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Jesus Christ is said to be the finisher of our faith. In Hebrews 12:2, the NIV Bible refers to him as the “pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Philippians 1:6 says, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (NLT). What does this all mean? It means that God will never start something and not carry it through to the end. Remember, He is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19). So, if He said it, it must be so!
If you have a dream in your heart, and you are wondering how God will ever bring it to pass, then this message should give you hope. God will never place dreams in our hearts and then taunt us by making them unachievable.
The Bible says that in order to live our best lives, we must have faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him,” (NIV). Here is a critical point that is often lost on most of us, including myself. Faith, or lack thereof, isn’t our biggest problem. Many of have faith, or we think we do. The problem is, not our faith per se. The problem is, we don’t know who God is. Re-read Hebrews 11:6 more carefully. It says that anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists AND that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. I would argue that most believer would agree that God exists. I think most people, believers and non-believers alike, struggle with the fact that God genuinely wants to reward them. I believe that before we can truly have faith in God, we have to learn a little more about who He is. It’s impossible to have faith in someone we know little or nothing about.
I could use a million examples to illustrate who God is, but today I want to focus on just one. Hopefully, we could meditate on this example throughout the day and allow the words to truly marinate. In Genesis 28:15, God told Jacob that “I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” A few chapters later, Jacob wrestles with God in Genesis 32:22-32.  In the passage, Jacob was alone when:

a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.” 28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” 29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said. “Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

How many of us are currently wrestling with God regarding our current situations?  Our relationships are broken.  Our marriages are not what we would like them to be.  We haven’t met the partner we thought we would have.  Our business ventures have failed.  We have no idea how to initiate the dream that God has laid on our hearts.  Our children are not where we would like them to be. There are so many ways that we all wrestle with God, yet He remains faithful. I believe that the moment that we truly realize that God is faithful, even when we are not (2Timothy 2:13), is the moment that we can truly begin to have faith. Today, remember that God promised Jacob that He would never leave him until He had given him everything that he has promised. Know that the promises made to Jacob are also applicable to us. It is also important to remember that God has also placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Therefore, if God has promised us eternity, and He won’t leave us until He has given us everything He has promised, then God will NEVER leave us. This should comfort us to know that God will never leave us!

 

 

Today, as I was reflecting on God’s word in and for my life, I learned a very important lesson on gratitude.  It was also a lesson on humility.

One of my biggest pet peeve is when people answer the question “how are you” with the statement, “it could be worse.”  Oh my!  That phrase just makes my blood boil.  Yes, we all know it could be worse.  We could all be dying of hunger, suffering from scabies and burying our favorite dead dog—all in the same day.  Yes, it could be worse.  I guess the point that people are trying to convey when they say “it could be worse” is that we should be grateful.  However, I believe when we start to see our problems through the lens of “it could be worse,” we allow ourselves to adopt an attitude of pessimism.  The idea that “it could be worse” inadvertently traps us into mediocrity.  Somehow, it suggests that we have plateaued in our current situations.  If all we have is the notion that “it could be worse,” the worst case scenario, why would we aim higher?

Here is a novel idea:  IT COULD BE BETTER.   Regardless of wherever you and I find ourselves, there is always room for improvement.  When we take the stance of “it could be better,” we set the stage for optimism.  We are creating an environment where we could see our glasses as half full rather than half empty.

Now that we have established that life “could be better,” I must add a caveat to the argument.  Although there is always room for improvement in our lives, we must be grateful in our current situations.  In fact, some of the things that we take for granted might be the very thing that someone else is praying for.  Just think about it.

The first thing that most of us do when we arrive home late at night is turn the lights on.  We have taken our ability to distinguish between light and dark for granted.  For the individual praying for sight, he is always in darkness.  Some of us who have had the privilege of attending a concert might complain that the music was too loud, but for the person praying for hearing, everything is silent.  For the parent who complains about her child’s messy bedroom, there is a barren women praying for a baby.  I think you get the point.  We do have a lot to be grateful for.  However, our propensity for praise should not be based on what we do not have, but what we do.  For example, we should not praise God for our hearing by thanking Him for not being deaf.  We should praise him that we could hear.  The moral of the story is that we have to develop a heart of praise and thanksgiving.

This morning I read Luke 16:10-12.  It says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own,” (NIV)?  The passage humbled me.  For the first time, I was able to read it in a completely different light.  Here is what God laid on my heart based on this passage:

If God cannot trust us to be grateful and praise Him for the little miracles in our lives, how could He trust us to praise Him for our heart’s desires?  Maybe, just maybe, if we started to praise Him for the “little things,” we might start to see some manifestations of our bigger dreams.  In other words, if we praise Him for the “little things,” He just might trust us with true riches.

Have you ever had one of those philosophical moments where even the simplest action ignited a myriad of thoughts?  Well, for me, today was one of those days.

This morning as I drove to work I began to wonder: What did Jesus mean when He said, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father,” (John 14:12, NIV).  What do those greater works actually look like today?  Back then, Jesus sighted the blind, healed the lame and raised the dead.  So what does greater works look like in 2013?

As I continued my drive, I reflected on the act of driving.  Could the fact that I was driving a car be an example of the greater works that Jesus mentioned?  Back in His day, travel was either by foot or by animal.  Truly, when we think about it, our technological and mechanical advances are pretty miraculous.  Through God’s grace we have been able to explore the Earth and challenge some of it laws.  Our planes challenge the laws of gravity.  Our submarines manipulates the force of buoyance.  Our miracles don’t just stop at transportation.  Modern medicine has also come a long way since Jesus’ time.  People are living longer and healthier because of human advances in medicine.  However, as wonderful as these advances are, and they are wonderful, in my heart, I wonder whether our technological advances are the “greater works” Jesus was referring to.  With that being said, I beg the question, “What are the greater works that Jesus was referring to?”

When Jesus gave us the promise of “greater works,” it was given as a conditional and not an absolute.  In order for us to see the manifestations of greater works, Jesus said we had to believe in Him.  This belief is not simply an acknowledgment of Jesus’ existence but a conviction of His might.  This belief has to be activated by our faith.  Maybe, just maybe, the reason why we haven’t seen an abundance of “greater works” is because we are limited on our faith.  In the Bible, we saw numerous examples of great faith and great works.  When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she knew that she was healed.  In fact, Jesus told her that her faith had healed her.

In 2013, there is no reason why we should not be experiencing people being raised from the dead, limbs being regenerated, diseases being cured and people walking into their Canaan. If you think that this sounds a little silly, then that’s actually part of the problem.  I think that when we begin to believe, God will do the supernatural (the impossible.)  He will either do it the old-fashion way by simply yelling, “Lazarus, get up,” or He could do it new-school by yelling, “Clear” (reference to a defibrillator in a hospital).

There is no reason why you and I should not be able to see greater works.  When Jesus died and was risen, he left us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In Joel 2:28-29 God said, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, (NIV).  In John 14, Jesus said that He would not leave us as orphans (verse 18).  Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and protect us.  With the Holy Spirit guiding us and protecting us, there is no reason why we should not be seeing our “greater works.”  My prayer is that, today, God’s people will begin to believe and do greater works.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

EnvyA few weeks ago, we started a new series called the seven deadly sins.  Those sins are:  pride, envy, greed, wrath, gluttony, sloth and lust.  In our previous discussions, we mentioned that although the concept of the seven deadly sins is not Biblical per se, some scholars have said that the principle has a Biblical derivative, specifically Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21:

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17  haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18   a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19     a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community, (Proverbs 6:16-19, NIV).

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19:21, NIV).

So far, we have talked about pride and greed.  Today we will talk about envy!

Previously, we mentioned that pride was the original sin that caused man to fall.  If I were to rank the seven deadly sins in order of egregiousness, I would say that pride would be a first place contender, and envy would be a close runner up.  Of the seven deadly sins, I believe that these two are the most vile of them all.  I would even argue that pride and envy are what I would call gateway sins.  When they take root in our lives, they open the gates for other sins.  Let’s take a look at James 4:1-4 to illustrate this point.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

James 4:1-4, NIV

So, in James 4:1, the Bible says that our desires that battle inside us is what causes us to quarrel and fight.  That is pride and envy 101.  It was pride and envy that caused Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their pride told them that they were entitled to God’s knowledge.  Their envy made them begrudge the fact that God possessed the knowledge that they thought they deserved.

Now, here is why I call pride and envy the gateway sin.  James 4:2 says, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”  Remember pride makes us feel entitled and envy makes us think we should have the product of our entitlement.  So what happens when someone has what we think we should have? We become envious and that envy could lead to rape, murder, adultery, lying,  greed, and any other vice we could think of.  Let’s look at some practical applications.  For example, a man cheat on his wife with another man’s wife.  Why?  Somehow, deep down inside, he has reasoned that he is entitled to the value that other man’s wife brings to her husband.  The man who is doing the cheating might have reasoned that he deserved to be respected, loved and honored.  Since he is envious of his perception of the other man’s wife’s values, he “steals” her from the other man.  His pride has told him that he is entitled, and his envy has precipitated his adultery, lying and stealing, and in some cases, killing.

Let’s use another example.  A woman shoplifts from a department store.  Why? Somewhere in her mind, she has determined that she is entitled to the items she has stolen.  She is also envious that the store owners/stock holders have move than she does.  Most of the time when we listen to the excuses of people who shoplift, they say things like: “They have enough stuff;” “They’ll never miss this;” or some variation of “I should have this stuff too.”  This is jealousy and pride.  That jealously and pride have caused them to resort to lying and stealing.  First, the individual in our shoplifting scenario has lied to herself in an effort to convince herself that she deserve someone’s miracle/destiny/blessings.  Second, she has lied to herself by trying to convince herself that she is not hurting anyone.  Lastly, she will have to lie to avoid getting caught.

The problem with envy and pride is not that they are inherently bad, even though they are.  The problem is that they set us up for failure each and every time.  It is impossible for us to have someone else’s blessings because that blessing was custom fitted for that individual.  You see, God knows each and every one of us inside out.  Just as no two people have the same fingerprints, no two people have the same spiritual DNA.  When God considered our blessings, He considered our gender, our race, our backgrounds, our personalities, our idiosyncrasies, our level of faith (or lack thereof), our maturity and so much more.  It is IMPOSSIBLE that any another person on the planet would align with us on ALL of those thousands, maybe even millions, of variables.  We could save ourselves a tremendous amount of heartache and pain if we understood that no matter how much we envied someone, we could never have what they have.  Their blessing weren’t made for us.  The other thing is this.  We do not know how much time, effort and prayer someone has put into their blessings.  The problem with many of us is we think that our story ends when God grants us our blessings.  Friends, in many cases, this is just the beginning.  God has an expectation that we will take care of what He has given us.  Let’s use another example.  We might look at our neighbor and say, “Wow, they have such good, accomplished children.  I wish mine were like theirs.”  The problem is we don’t know how they got to that point.  How many days did that mother fast for her children?  How many nights did that father pray for their success?  What about their ancestors?  Imagine how they could have prayed and planted seeds.  They truth is we just never know what people’s true circumstances are.

The final point I would like to bring home is this: James 4: 2-3 says we have not because we ask not.  It also says that sometimes the reason that we do not have is because we ask for the wrong reasons.  Friends, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (p.s. He owns the hills too), why aren’t we asking Him for everything.  No matter how small our requests, we should bring them to God.  If we do not get the answer we desire, we should not automatically think that we are asking with wrong motives.  Instead, we should ask God to check our heart and purify our desires.  If we have done a heart check with God and we still find ourselves with the same desire, then the answer is simple.  We have to wait and trust that His timing is perfect.  We have to know that though others might appear to be experiencing their Jordans, their timing is not ours.  We have to trust that God knows what we need and will come through when we need it.

God,

My prayer for today is that you settle the hearts of your people.  Grant us your peace that surpasses all understanding.  Thwart in us any temptation for pride and envy.  Allow us to know that you have custom-fitted blessing designed specifically for each and every single one of us that will be revealed at just the right time.  I pray blessings over all your people.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen!

I’m usually not the best at reciting jokes, but this one I had to share.  A man went to God and said, “God, your power is so infinite and your resources are so limitless.  For you, a million years is like one second and a million dollars is like one penny.  Surely, you would have no problems giving me a million dollars.”  God looked at the man and said, “I sure don’t.  Just give me one second.”

The truth is God’s timing is not the same as ours.  When everything ceases to exist, He will still remain standing.  God has seen empires rise and fall.  He has seen generations created and destroyed.  He is the beginning and the end of time.  So, sometimes it does beg the question:  Could God truly sympathize with the fact that we are but a mist in the spectrum of time?  Even though He created us, does He really understand that our Earthly bones decay daily?  Does He truly understand that for us a million years is not the same as one second?  As I explored the answer, perhaps answers, to this question, I came across an interesting passage in Scripture.  It’s a little long, but just bear with me:

A Valley of Dry Bones

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

10 So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.

11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ 12 Therefore, prophesy to them and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken,’” (Ezekiel 33:1-14, NLT)!

This story should give each and every one of us great comfort.  You see, when the bones first came together, they had no life.  They were just going through the motions.  It wasn’t until God breathed His Spirit into them that they came alive.  This passage illustrates three really important principles.  First, it is quite possible that you and I can make plans absent of God.  Our plans might even create the illusion of success.  I am sure that had there been distant onlookers, the regenerating bone might have given the appearance of life.  But just like the bones, our plans do not experience true life until God breaths His Spirit onto them.  The second point is, regardless of how dead something is, God can bring it back to life.  The fact that those bones were dry throughout suggests that they had been there for some time.  The bones probably surpassed any memories of the individuals’ existence, but God was still able to bring them back to life.  To us, our dreams might appear dead and forgotten, but God can bring them back to life by breathing His spirit into it.  The truth is, our very existence is proof of that.  We were dead before we were born, and God breathe life into us and caused us to exist.  The third point is easily overlooked.  God could have resurrected the bones on His own, but he used Ezekiel to perform the works.   God commanded him to speak to the bones and the wind.  What is He commanding us to speak to in our lives?

I love the way this passage end.  Even though God had given this illustration as promise to the nation of Israel, we should know that our God is not a partial God, and that the promises He makes to one is applicable to all.  With that said, God promised the Israelites that He would open their graves of exile and cause them to rise again.  Wow!  How many of us are living, but we still have one (or both) foot (feet) in the grave?  The truth is, it does matter.  God has promised us that He can rescue us from the tomb and bring us back to life.

Today, we should be encouraged that regardless of where we find ourselves, we should know that God has the ability to rescue us.  He sees us.  There is nothing that can separate us from His love.  He has not forgotten about us or given up on us.  Many may say that it is too late.  The doctor might have predicted when someone will draw his final breath, but only God breathes life.  Critics might say that our dreams have an expiration date and that we are too old to achieve God’s plan, but God gets the final word!  In fact, He has also shared that final word with us.  We need to speak life into our situation today!

Repeat after Ezekiel (via God):

“‘Dry bones [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH YOUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES], listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord….Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again….‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I will open your graves of exile and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken, (NLT).’”

Moment

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them,” (Matthew 18:20, NIV).

If we were to take Matthew 18:20 literally, we would be inclined to assume that when the author spoke of a gathering, he was simply referring to a natural occurrence—an assembly of people.  We couldn’t be more wrong!  The Bible is filled with double, even triple, entendre.  What if I were to tell you that it is possible for people to gather without meeting?

This weekend, I attended the 2013 Hillsong Conference, which was held at the world-famous Radio City Music Hall in NYC.  Although Hillsong Church, which was founded in Australia, has hosted several conferences in the past, this was their first conference in NYC.  In fact, about three years ago, Hillsong Church set their sights on the Big Apple, and Hillsong NYC was birthed.  As I sat in the audience and listened to the stories of some of the pioneers, I noticed one common denominator.  God had made an impression on each individual’s heart, and each individual followed up with prayer.  Their prayers for NY made me think of my own NY experience several years prior.

Picture this: New York City, Lower East Side (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I love Sophia from the Golden Girls.  For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, you’re missing out).  I digress.

Picture this: New York City, Lower East Side.  I was a young, naïve woman living in the City of Lights—not a very safe place for the young and vulnerable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love NYC.  It is a great place with golden opportunities.  The “theys” have said that, “If you can make it in NY, you can make it anywhere.”  That is certainly true.  There are a lot of hopes and dreams that have been birthed in the concrete jungles of NY.  However, there is a dark side to NY.  It can be a predatory environment.  The treacherous and the ill-intentioned have also flocked there.  They too are looking for opportunities, but opportunities of a different kind.  They are there to deceive and defraud.  When I moved to NY, I knew I needed to be grounded.  I knew I needed to find a church home.

When I first arrived in NY, I knew no one.  I found my first church through an online search from slim pickings.  Eventually, I found one that was in walking distance from my dorms.  I was excited.  My excitement was short-lived.  Let’s just say that five minutes into the service, I knew that I would NEVER return.  The following week was equally eventful.  My new find was also in the City, but a little further away from my first location.  I guess I should have known something was amiss when the cabbie pulled up in front of the church and asked me whether he should stick around while I scoped out the scene.  Those who are familiar with stereotypical NY City taxi drivers know that offer was unusual.  Typically, they speed off while you still have one foot in the vehicle.  All kidding aside, stubbornness got the best of me.  I told the cab driver to leave, and proceeded inside.

Service was scheduled for 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.  This time, I had taken extra precautions to ensure that I would have a positive experience.  Early Saturday afternoon, I had called the church office to confirm the time and location of the service.  I arrived at the church around 10:45.  To my surprise, there was only one other person there, and he gave me the creeps.  He was a talk, middle-aged man dressed in a black suit and a top hat.  He tried to make small talk, but I couldn’t hear him over the intensity of my heart pounding. Between questions, he would intermittently open and close the door to the entrance of the church.   My pulse raced each time the door closed.  Maybe he was a standup Christian man, or maybe he had stacks of bodies in the church basement.  I didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out.  During one of the open-door intervals, I bolted, and I did not look back.

That was week two.  By the third week, I had grown tired of being disappointed and frustrated.  In my heart I whispered, “If I don’t find a church that I like this week, I will stop looking and just not go.”  Thankfully, we serve a God that responds to silent SOS.

On the third week of my church quest, I found yet another Manhattan church online.  That Sunday morning, I got dressed and headed down the elevator as I had the weeks before.  As I was about to exit the building, I stopped and chatted with my building’s front desk security guard.  He was a Christian, and we had spoken about Christ many times before.  That morning he asked me a question that changed my life.

“Where do you go to church,” He asked.

I smiled and replied, “I don’t know.  That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

When I told him that I was having difficulty finding a church, he suggested that I look up the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  His suggestion resonated with my spirit.  I dashed upstairs before he could place the final period on his sentence—I couldn’t have move fast enough.  That afternoon, I attended the 12 o’clock service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.  I was fed there for almost five years—the entire time I lived in NY.

This is the point where our story comes full circle.  Although I LOVED the Brooklyn Tabernacle and would never trade my experience, there were weekends where I wished that the City offered more variety for hungry Christians and famished unbelievers.  Oftentimes, I would pray that individuals who had also had difficulties finding a church home would not be discouraged.  I prayed that God would give them a place of worship where they could hear about His Word and His greatness.  Those were some of my prayers.  Who would have thought that somewhere across the globe people that I did not know, would be “GATHERING” together with me in prayer for the same thing.  Though we were separated by space and time, we were still able to gather together in God’s name.

Several years later, God answered the cries of His people.  Due to the gatherings of many faithful people across the world, God responded to the cries of the City.  As a result, newly planted churches such as Hillsong joined previously established NYC churches to create and even bigger movement of God.

The revelation that the term gathering could be interpreted as a “spiritual meeting” is not to minimize or discredit the importance of intimate, personal fellowship and prayer, for the Bible does say that we should not forsake the assembly of believers (Hebrews 10:25). However, the antidote simply serves to illustrate that our God is not impeded by our limitations (e.g. time or space).

Today, please know that you are not the only one praying for your situation.  Others are, or have been, gathering, whether personally or spiritually, on your behalf.  Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word will not return to Him void.  In other words, your prayers that have been rooted in His promises WILL be answered.  So be of good courage tonight and know that God will do what He said He will do!

The final day of our prayer challenge has come upon us.  So, what do we do now? Now, we wait. Not quite the answer you were expecting, huh? Wait?  We just spent an entire week waiting and believing for God to move.  Surely, God is going to meet our faith now.  Surely our worlds are about to dramatically change.  The truth is, God’s army doesn’t always launch a frontal attack.  Sometimes, they take the path less traveled.  In other words, life doesn’t always happen according to plan.  It is quite possible that the blessings that God has in store for us could very well appear out of left field. None of us know what God has in store for us.  We just know that as believers, we have to stand firm on His Word.  Below are a few of the top lessons I have learned during this past season that will guide me, and hopefully, you, into the next chapter.  I hope they bless you too!

  1. God is still on the throne.

Isaiah 45:6-7

so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other.I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things, (NIV).

Psalm 22:28

28  For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations (ESV).

  1. God has not forgotten about you.

Isaiah 49:15-16

15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

  1. You are either going to believe/trust God or you are not.  There is no middle ground.

Matthew 19:26

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (NIV).

  1. Wait with expectations.

Philippians 1:20

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 NLT

Then the lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.

  1. If you find yourself explaining too much, STOP!

2Timothy 2:23-26

23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will, (NIV).

  1. Don’t justify/explain your blessings.

1 Samuel 16:7

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” (NIV).

  1. Worry less. Fear less.  Pray more.

Isaiah 41:10

10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my victorious right hand, (NLT).

  1.  Eliminate excuses.

2 Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body, (NLT).

  1. Love your enemy. Even pray for them.

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, (NIV).

  1. Learn to say no. It’s okay to let your yes be yes and your no be no.

James 5:12

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned, (NIV).

 

  1. Be strong and courageous.    

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” (NIV).

 

  1. Embrace failure.

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (KJV).

  1. Know that you are stronger than you think.

Exodus 9:16

16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth, (NIV).

  1. Look in the mirror, and embrace God’s masterpiece.

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago, (NLT).

  1. Know that the same God who closes doors holds the blueprints for every construction site, and He can place a window wherever He so desires.

Isaiah 55:8-11

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it, (NLT).

  1. LAUGH!

Job 8:21

21 He will once again fill your mouth with laughter, (NLT).

 

  1. LOVE!

John 3:16-17

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

  1. LET GO!

Ephesians 4:31

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you, (NLT).

Today, I pray that God will teach you how to laugh again and that you would not be jaded by the world’s shenanigans. I pray that you will love and live.  I pray that for each door that closes, God will increase your strength and wisdom in preparation for the next chapter.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen!!

Metro Zoo 027Metro Zoo 027

Lately, there have been so many talking donkeys in my life.  It’s been very difficult to resist the urge to beat those asses.

For those of you who don’t know or have never heard the story of Balaam and the Donkey, let me give you a brief synopsis.

Balaam was a prophet in the Old Testament.  King Balak, king of Moab, had sent messengers to request that Balaam curse the Israelites who were living in Moab.  This directive was against God’s orders.  Nonetheless, Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials.  God was angry with him for disobeying His order, so he sent an angel to oppose him.  When the donkey saw the angel standing in the road, it went off the road and into a field.  Balaam beat the animal and forced it back onto the road.  The angel appeared a second time further along the path.  Again, the donkey saw the angel and hesitated.  Balaam beat the donkey a second time.  The third time the donkey saw the angel, it laid down under Balaam.  This time Balaam beat it with his staff.  God allowed the donkey to speak.  The donkey questioned Balaam about the beating. Balaam threatened to kill the donkey.  The Lord allowed Balaam to see the angel standing in the road with his sword drawn. The angel informed Balaam that had it not been for the donkey’s resistance, he would have kill him (Numbers 22).

Crazy huh?  Maybe not!  How many times during the course of our day do we experience donkeys that try to protect us?  Many of us may likely never experience a literal talking donkey, but we do experience them metaphorically speaking.  Lost keys, delayed traffic, missed flights—these are all talking donkey in our lives.  Instead of trusting our “donkeys,” we resort to beating them.  Some of us get worked up to the point of wanting to annihilate our roadblocks, not realizing that death or disaster is imminent.

One of my prayers is that we learn to recognize our talking donkeys.  To begin, we should question resistance.  Is our resistance a part of the travails of life, or is it indicative of danger?   The truth is, only God can answer that question, but we need to present it to Him so that He could give us revelation.  Some circumstances could be avoidable if we just take heed.  Our prayers, should involve asking God for wisdom, discernment and peace about the situation.  When we do, we allow God to step in and implement His divine will.

Today’s Prayer:

Lord, allow us to embrace our talking donkeys.  Provide us the wisdom, discernment and peace regarding your will.  May your will be done in our lives.  Protect us from all harm.  Let us rest in your peace regarding our life’s decisions.  Bless us in our coming and our goings.  We love you.  We trust you.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible,” (Hebrews 11:1-3, NIV).

Most of us have said at some point that we won’t believe it until we see it.  But according to the verse above, even the things we CAN see were birthed from the things we COULD NOT see.  Therefore, our beliefs in the tangible (the things that are seen) is the beginning of faith.  Basically, what God is saying is that nothing is impossible.  He made what is perceived as possible from the impossible.  This gives us the comfort to know that the absence of a promise in our lives does not preclude its manifestation.  We have to trust that God is working out the details.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood.  He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before (Hebrews 11:7, NLT).

Not because something has never happened before does not mean that God can’t or won’t allow it to happen in the future.  However, sometimes the promise(s) made to you is not for you, but for your generation.  For example, God gave Martin Luther King Jr. a dream that he did not get to see, but his generation is experiencing the manifestation of his dreams.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth (Hebrews 11:13, NLT).

On this final day of the 30-day Marriage Challenge, I want to remind you of one final point:  When Jesus died, he said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30).  Please know that the end of Jesus’ life was actually the beginning of ours.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:13-16, NLT).

The above passage in Psalm says that before we were born, God had recorded every day of our lives in His book.  Before we were born, it was finished.  Every promise in our lives was finished before birth.  Every dream was finished.  Every relationship was finished.  Every soul was finished.  When Jesus gave his life, it was finished.  In other words, He finished His life so that we could begin ours.  It is finished!

I hoped you have enjoyed the 30-Day Marriage Challenge series.  This series was never intended to be solely about earthly marriages.  It was about our marriages to God.  You see, before we can commit to anyone, we must first commit to God.  Isaiah 54:5 says, “For your Creator will be your husband; the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth, (NLT).

Our spiritual marriage should supersedes our natural marriage.  God is and should be our husbands before we walk down the aisle.  If our relationships with God is faulty, then our earthly relationships WILL fail.  We will never be the right spouse.  We will never chose the right person.  Our relationships will never reach their potential because Jesus was never the center.  People cannot and should not complete us.  No person can fill the God-shaped void in our lives.  Today, wherever you find yourself, single or otherwise engaged, trust God.  Do not attempt to live a life independent of God.

Dear Father,

Today, I pray that that we will trust you.  Be our husbands, Lord.  Lord of Heaven’s Armies, please be our redeemer.  Give us the strength and the courage to trust you.  Let us place all our desires, dreams, relationships and promises in your hand knowing that, “IT IS FINISHED!”  Let us not settle for earthly counterfeits when we could have true treasures.  Let us not give in to the desires of our flesh out of desperation or out of a spirit of fear.  Let us wait on your word and trust that you will order our steps,  because Jesus has already said that, “IT IS FINISHED!”